Alpana, poor but happy in her own world

Credits: © Abhijit Nandi / CIWEM

Alpana returning home from the paddy field after a long day at work. Alpana has lived in the remote Indian village of Gourdah in West Bengal since she married Sanjit Pramanik when she was just 15 years old.

Although child marriages are illegal in India, the ancient Hindu custom is widely practised in the populous northern states. For boys, early marriage brings increased financial responsibility but for millions of girls like Alpana, it brings a cycle of early pregnancy, poor health, gender marginalisation and poverty, as well as signifying an end to their education. 

She spends her day managing her home and children, walking the four kilometre round trip for clean water and making incense sticks to supplement her husband's meagre salary made as a casual labourer sweeping roads. She takes one day to make 1,000 sticks, earning only fifty-five rupees or less than one euro.

The photographer, Abhijit Nandi, writes: "My picture reflects the relationships between the environment (Mother Earth) and people; or mother and child. There is also a strong suggestion of the renewal of life, with the cow being connected deeply to the fertility cult in Indian mythology. "I shot this photograph in a remote village called Gourdah in West Bengal. The woman in my picture is returning home from the paddy field after a long day at work. As a farmer's housewife, she has to manage her home, child and also help her husband in the field. They are very poor. She never thought that a village woman could be the subject of a photograph, so when I told her that I would like to take a picture of her, she just laughed. "The mother and child, the green paddy field and the blue sky after rain fill me with happiness, hope and joy."

This photograph was a winner in a competition organised by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).